Founded on the collection of the late Professor Kirk Wipper, and established in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1997, the museum’s holdings now number more than 600 canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft with over 100 on display in our galleries. Together they span the country from coast to coast to coast and represent many of the major watercraft traditions of Canada.
The museum’s artifacts range from the great dugouts of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to the singular bark canoes of the Beothuk of Newfoundland; from the skin-on-frame kayaks of northern peoples from Baffin Island in the east to the Mackenzie River Delta in the northwest to the all-wood and canvas-covered craft manufactured by companies with names like Herald, Peterborough, Chestnut, Lakefield and Canadian. Over the years paddled watercraft from as far away as Paraguay and the Amazon have helped the Museum expand its reach and scope to include International examples.
Some examples from our collection:
This is an Algonquin style canoe built by William and Mary Commanda in 1980 for the Kanawa Museum. Winter bark was used in the construction, and it was scraped to reveal images of stars, animals, scalloped edging along the gunwales and other images. This technique of scraping the bark to create designs and images is typical of the Commandas of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg near Maniwaki, Quebec.
Not currently on exhibit, the Orellana, a battered fibreglass canoe, covered with decals, was recognized in the Guinness Book of Records in 1986, for the longest canoe journey – 12,000 miles. In this canoe, Don Starkell, set out from Winnipeg, Manitoba, with his sons, Dana, and for part of the trip, Jeff. Beginning with upstream travel on the Red River, they reached the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. Travel along the coast of Mexico was fraught with danger from ocean currents and surf landings, to which were added soldiers and bandits along the coast of Honduras and Columbia. After much-needed professional repairs in Venezuela, they reached the Orinoco River, where 1000 miles of up-stream paddling connected them with the Rio Negro and the Amazon, finishing at Belem at the mouth of the Amazon. Don Starkell had obsessive determination, which he would show again on his next trip, kayaking to the Arctic.
– from our blog –
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